LONDON — This is my first post and my first Summer Olympics, so before the events begin in earnest, I thought I’d take you on a wide-eyed walking tour of the Olympic Park — or at least everything I could access with a media credential. The public won’t hit the park until the gates open for the Opening Ceremony; in the meantime it’s a mostly empty wonderland in which media members and staffers are wandering around, and distance runners are using it as a free-range training space.
The tour starts with wheat, as this was also my first time seeing trays of wheat on rolling carts. These are props for Danny Boyle’s big show at the opening ceremony. He hopes his English countryside scenes will meet high standards of verisimilitude.
From trays of wheat to walkways with McDonald’s ball-pit patterns: This is the empty promenade outside fang-walled Olympic Stadium. Colleagues have reported hearing both Paul McCartney’s soundcheck and the Chariots of Fire theme emanating from inside the stadium.
If you happen to get a dog inside Olympic Park, organizers don’t want it defecating on the fancy walkways. They created a “Dog-relief area,” complete with wood chips, compost bin … and a roll of toilet paper, if your dog is into that level of hygiene.
One way to increase your odds of needing a human-relief area: Have a double meal of “Salt Beef” and “Pie and Mash”:
The well-sodded exterior — and sleek interior — of the venue that will dominate the first week of news, the Aquatics Centre:
I hoped to see signs advising swimmers not to hit the water for at least an hour after eating Salt Beef, but all I found was something about a “deep clean.” This should make germaphobic spectators and athletes happy. Your Olympics have been sanitized:
My camera taking a picture of a TV camera taking a swimming picture. So meta!
Less meta: swimming cameras on a catwalk, ready to catch the long view of the pool:
Synchronized diving practice. More photogenic than swimming, yet immensely less popular.
The divers’ private bath is nicely framed by a concrete embankment. Once again, a better photo subject than swimming practice, which I chose to ignore.
Boise State has nothing on the Olympic field hockey venue. A fuchsia frame really makes the blue turf “pop,” doesn’t it?
In case you’ve never seen a what a major field-hockey event bench looks like — and I, for one, had not — this is it. Blue seats, fuchsia carpet:
The Velodrome is my favorite venue, in part because it’s being billed as the world’s fastest cycling track, and in part because front-row spectators can get within inches of cyclists turning high and wide at breakneck speeds. (There are signs that warn fans not to put anything on the rails.)
The BMX venue was still labeled a “work site” — they were putting up the makeshift grandstands — so I couldn’t get in, but this is the view from over the deck of the Velodrome:
Without an exclamation point, this is more of an instruction than an exhortation … but it and the Coca-Cola “Beat Box” (in the next photo) are the most prominent sculptures in the park.
This Chinese Taipei coach was not posing for me; I photographer-bombed his wall-grabbing moment at the entrance to the athletes’ village.
Media access to the residential area of the athletes village is restricted — as in, we can’t get back there during the Games — but SI photographer Bill Frakes took this shot of the Romanian dorm during a tour:
Frakes also got a glimpse of the athletes’ cafeteria, which specializes in Rocket Radicchio, an Italian chicory with apparently legal speed-boosting properties.
In the souvenir store in the athletes’ village, there’s a world map pinboard on which visitors are encouraged to post notes of, well, encouragement. Oman only has one note, but it’s also the only one with lipstick. There is love, in the village, for Oman.